Posts Tagged ‘HEALTH/SAFETY’


September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Bedbugs are invading Google’s New York office!A Googler in marketing JUST tweeted, “jeepers i am not immune from the bedbug epidemic. bedbugs have been found at work.”

bedbugs invade Google


Earlier this summer, New York’s bedbug invasion shut down Time Warner, a Hollister store, and Hachette Filipacchi’s Elle Magazine..

Don’t panic!

Click here to learn how to identify and destroy bed bugs >

Read more



Explosion Rocks Honeywell Uranium Facility Run by Scab Workers

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Tuesday 07 September 2010

by: Mike Elk  |  The Huffington Post | Report

(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Jan Michael Ihl, TimScott, Angela Wolf)

Union workers have been locked out at the uranium enrichment facility in Metropolis, Illinois for two months now after contract negotiations broke down over Honeywell’s demand that workers give up their retiree health care coverage and pension plans. The Metropolis uranium facility is the only one in the United States that can convert U308 into the extremely deadly UF6.

Because the plant is the only conversion facility of its kind in the United States, familiarity with the Metropolis plant, and not just generic experience in the field, is essential to ensuring the plant’s safety. Concerns have been raised by local community members and union officials that replacement workers at the Honeywell facility cannot safely operate the plant since they have no site-specific experience in this type of conversion facility.

Workers claim that Cote is far more interested in keeping his record profits high than actually protecting workers and the surrounding community. They believe that Honeywell CEO David Cote is willing to risk nuclear fallout in order to demand that uranium workers cut their retiree health care and pension plans.

On Saturday, nuclear regulators allowed Honeywell to start up core production at the facility, where core production had been shut down for over two months due to concerns about the training of replacement workers. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission delayed reopening the plant for several days after questions were raised about the unusually high levels of uranium that were appearing in the urine tests of several nuclear workers.

The following day, a hydrogen explosion rocked the plant. The blast shook the ground in front of the plant and could be heard a mile away, according to local reports. State Trooper Bridget Rice said that police were called to investigate to the scene of the explosion after receiving several phone calls reporting an explosion at the plant. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah also confirmed that there was indeed “a small hydrogen explosion that was very loud” at the Metropolis facility.

The plant splits hydrofluoric acid into hydrogen and fluoride. The hydrogen then gets scrubbed and released into the atmosphere and fluorine goes into the process. If the hydrogen and fluorine recombine, it can be very reactive and cause a non-radioactive hydrogen explosion. On Saturday, hydrogen was accidentally recombined with fluorine causing a massive explosion that could be heard a mile away and leading to the plant being temporarily shut down.

Honeywell Spokesman Peter Dapel released this statement: “There was a noise at Metropolis Works yesterday that occurred as a result of the normal venting of one of our systems…. The union workforce is very familiar with the procedure that caused yesterday’s noise, having executed similar processes on at least two occasions earlier this year prior to the work stoppage with the exact same outcomes. It is common to plants that work with fluorine, and characteristic of plants that are following correct procedures.”

However, union spokesman John Paul Smith claims that the workers who worked at the plant for decades said very minor explosions had occurred, but no explosion of such a magnitude that it could be heard outside of the plant. State police also could not cite an incident where they had been called to the plant to investigate an explosion at the Metropolis facility that had been reported to them by local community members.

Workers and local community members see this explosion as evidence that the quickly trained replacement workers are not qualified to operate the plant.

Local union officials claim that the workers are not properly trained to work in the plant. In a statement released last week USW Local 7-699 claimed, “The Union workforce was required to have extensive on-the-job training on running units from qualified trainers for several months prior to being qualified. We have recently learned that several Fluorination workers were deemed ‘qualified’ by company personnel after one week of training. Furthermore, Union employees were required to have been a qualified operator for six months on a running unit before they were allowed to begin to train another employee. The company is currently training their own employees with people who themselves are not qualified.”

Additional concerns have been raised about the safety records of the replacement workers at the Metropolis facility who are employed by the Shaw Group. In 2009, a subsidiary of the Shaw Group was made to pay $6.2 million to the federal government for forcing its workers not to report safety and site violations when working on nuclear plant sites in Alabama and Tennessee.

Local community members are claiming that Honeywell is also not properly reporting safety violations at the nuclear facility in Metropolis. A recent report by Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) says Honeywell has failed to notify the NRC of 37 reportable unplanned, uranium contamination events at its Metropolis facility between January 2008 and January 2010.

The Metropolis facility had previously been shut down after a release of deadly toxic UF6 gas in December of 2003, which hospitalized four community members and lead to evacuations of dozens of residents near the plant. This was only the second time in American history (the first being the infamous Three Mile Island disaster) where a site area emergency forced the evacuation of a community surrounding a nuclear power facility. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the time found that Honeywell “failed to implement some parts of its emergency response plan and did not provide sufficient information to local emergency responders”.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also been very critical of the safety record of the uranium enrichment facility. According to the report by Sam Tranum of Uranium Intelligence Weekly, in May of 2009 the EPA listed the Metropolis facility as being “in significant noncompliance – a high priority violator” of the Clean Air Act and that the Metropolis facility had been in violation of the Clean Air Act for the nine months prior to that. Also, the EPA found that the Honeywell Metropolis uranium facility had been violating the Clean Water Act for about two years, but returned to compliance in December of 2009.

A federal grand jury has been convened to look into criminal violations of federal environmental laws. Honeywell initially tried to cover up the grand jury investigation to local community and union members. However SEC reports forced the company to reveal they were under grand jury investigation. According to Sam Tranum of Uranium Intelligence Weekly:

Details of the investigation are being kept under tight control by the relevant authorities, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), but the existence of a grand jury probe was confirmed by Honeywell International’s most recent 10Q filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It stated that the EPA and DOJ are investigating “whether the storage of certain sludges generated during uranium hexafluoride production at our Metropolis, Illinois facility has been in compliance with the requirements of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act [RCRA],” adding that, “The federal authorities have convened a grand jury in this matter.”

Honeywell’s long history of safety violations, the poor training of replacement workers at the Metropolis facility, and Saturday’s hydrogen explosion, have lead local workers and community members to call on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shut down production until the contract dispute can be resolved. “This just simply isn’t normal, what’s happening at the plant,” said union member John Paul Smith.

Workers are also calling on President Obama to put pressure on his close economic adviser Honeywell CEO David Cote to settle the safety and contract issues at the plant. They are asking President Obama to remove David Cote from the President’s Deficit Commission if he does not resolve the safety and contract issues.

Last week, the 350,000 members of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees called on President Obama to fire Cote from the so-called Deficit Commission. They released a statement saying:

Mr. Cote’s cruel and calculated behavior towards workers at its hexafluoride plant in Metropolis, Ill. clearly illustrates that he’s unqualified and inappropriate to help decide issues such as whether to reduce the federal deficit by cutting programs like social security or by upgrading the faulty military contracting process, from which Honeywell benefits.

Mr. Cote should be evicted from the so-called Deficit Commission immediately before he can use that position to harm all Americans the way he is injuring Honeywell workers in Illinois.

Follow Mike Elk on Twitter:

Mike Elk is a labor journalist based in Washington, D.C. Mike Elk is a third-generation union organizer who has worked for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers, the Campaign for America’s Future, and the Obama-Biden campaign. Also, Mike conducted research on barriers to communication between middle class and working class activists at the Instituto Marques de Salamanca in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN, Fox News, and NPR, and writes frequently for In These Times, Huffington Post, Alternet, and Truthout. When Mike is not reading twenty blogs at a time, he enjoys golden retrievers, crab bakes and playing horseshoes.


BP blames spill on a “sequence of failures”

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Top news: BP released the results of its internal investigation into the causes of the April 20 oil rig explosion that led to a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While the report accepts some blame for the disaster on BP’s part, it also emphasizes that “a sequence of failures involving a number of different parties led to the explosion and fire.”

The inquiry, which began almost immediately after the initial incident, faults workers for Transocean, which operated the rig, for failing to recognize the flow of hydrocarbons into the well in advance of the explosion. It also holds contractor Halliburton responsible for a faulty cement job in the well.

The report may offer a preview of the company legal strategy, should the U.S. Justice Department move forward with legal action against the company. BP’s incoming CEO Bob Dudley said the report shows that the explosion was “a shared responsibility among many entities” and the company has pledged to implement it’s recommendations at facilities around the world.

Making nice: Chinese President Hu Jintao told U.S. officials he wants to see “healthy and stable” ties between the two countries ahead of a visit to Washington.



Breaking: Alert at PPL Nuclear Plant –19 municipalities involved in Level 2 alert

August 10, 2010 1 comment

Breaking: Alert at PPL Nuclear Plant –19 municipalities involved in Level 2 alert 10 Aug 2010

(PA) An alert has been issued at PPL’s Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant near Berwick after a leak inside one of the buildings. PPL officials said no radiation was involved. PPL officials said Freon is leaking from a cooling system inside the Unit 1 reactor building. PPL said the Freon is still leaking and crews are trying to determine if it is safe for workers to stop the leak or if special teams using oxygen suits will be needed to stop the flow of Freon. The Freon supplies a cooling system in Unit 1. The alert system has four stages; four being the highest alert.


Gulf Residents Likely Face Decades of Psychological Impact From BP’s Oil Disaster

August 6, 2010 1 comment

Thursday 05 August 2010

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Report

Louisiana resident at a public forum about the BP oil disaster and the widespread use of toxic dispersants. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld © 2010)

While the devastating ecological impacts of BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are obvious, the less visible but also long-lasting psychological, community and personal impacts could be worse, according to social scientists, psychologists and psychiatrists.

“People are becoming more and more hopeless and feeling helpless,” Dr. Arwen Podesta, a psychiatrist at Tulane University in New Orleans told Truthout. “They are feeling frantic and overwhelmed. This is worse than [Hurricane] Katrina. There is already more post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more problems with domestic violence, threats of suicide and alcohol and drugs.”

Dr. Podesta, who also works in addiction clinics and hospitals said, “It’s a remarkably similar experience to that of the stressors of Katrina. There is an acute event, but then a long-term increase in hopelessness with every promise that is broken. Like a promise for money to rebuild a life, then people are put through red tape and each time they fail to move forward, they take five steps back in their psychological welfare.”

“The total number of years this will affect us is unknown,” Dr. Podesta said, adding, “however, it could affect us for possibly 20 to 30 years.”

Dr. Janet Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry at Tulane University, told Truthout, “People are on edge. People are feeling grief. I’m hearing of physical illnesses related to the oil and people are worried about losing their home, their culture, their way of life.”

Sociologists studying the current BP disaster, along with other man-made disasters, make a distinction between “natural” and “technological” disasters.

“What we find in our field when we study technological disasters, i.e., human made disasters, is that the impacts are chronic,” Dr. Anthony Ladd, a professor of sociology at Loyola University explained to Truthout. “They don’t really end. With a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi, although we experienced that as a technological disaster with the levee failure here in New Orleans, the only silver lining with a natural disaster like that is that people move through it. They actually end up building a stronger community, there’s more social capital [trust] going on in the community and people find they have to rely on each other.”

Other sociologists, like Dr. Steven Picou with the University of South Alabama, defines technological disaster as “a human-caused contamination of the ecosystem” and explains that they are “not a typical part of the geographical area you live in.”

Dr. Picou has studied other technological disasters for the last 30 years, including the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989. He, like Dr. Ladd, points to another important distinction between natural and technological disasters – that there is a drawn out period of recovery and accompanying uncertainty that make technological disasters, like the BP oil disaster, much more threatening to the health and welfare of affected people and communities along the Gulf Coast.

“With natural disasters, there is this sense that they will get through it and there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Ladd explained. “Yes this is horrible, yes we’ve lost our homes, yes people have been killed, but we’re going to pick ourselves up at some point, dust ourselves off and we can see recovery down the road. But with technological disasters you don’t get that. It’s a very different spiral into a malaise, into anxiety, into a feeling that there is no end in sight. You don’t know when the impacts are going to stop.”

Dr. Anthony Ladd, showing a cover story about trauma caused by the BP oil disaster. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld © 2010)

August 29 is the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Johnson, like others in the social sciences, explained that much of Louisiana was still in recovery from that disaster. Thus, the BP disaster has augmented and restimulated traumas from Katrina.

“It’s a long-term stressor, the damage is done even if it’s capped,” Dr. Johnson explained. “Who knows what the long term repercussions are. When can we eat seafood? Has it destroyed the marshes? What about a hurricane? Will we be covered in oil? This area is still recovering from Katrina, so this just puts an added burden on the mental health care system. We have much fewer services than we did pre-Katrina, because a lot of our major hospitals have not reopened and our conservative governor wants to privatize everything, so they’ve cut services.”

Dr. Ladd, whose major area of research centers around the impacts of environmental disasters on communities, draws direct parallels between the BP oil disaster and the Exxon Valdez disaster. “You don’t know when the BP check is going to show up in the mail, if ever. You don’t know when the feds and the state are going to do their thing, toward recovery. It’s a chronic unending spiral of people into often deeper and deeper levels of anxiety, and research shows that one of the major sources of anxiety is the litigation process itself. So on top of everything else the disaster throws at you, then you have the decade long experience of trying to litigate your way back to your economic livelihood or trying to get some kind of economic compensation for what you’ve lost and of course that never comes.”

Using the 1989 Exxon disaster as an example of this, in 2008 a corporate-friendly Supreme Court took the original $5 billion judgment against Exxon from 1994 and ended up granting only 1/10th the amount, $500 million, to the citizens of Cordova.

“So they weren’t able to save their businesses and many weren’t able to stay in the community,” Dr. Ladd said. “The litigation process itself is a huge source of anxiety and we’re not anywhere near seeing what that’s going to be like in this case, given that the dimensions of this disaster are way beyond what we saw in Alaska.”

Another impact we can likely expect from the BP oil disaster comes from what Dr. Picou has written:

“Chronic economic impacts systematically invade the social fabric, causing a cascade of social pathology for communities, families and individuals. The sociological lessons of the Exxon Valdez for the human condition clearly document this fact. Because of fear and uncertainty regarding the ecological consequences of the Exxon Valdez, intense social conflict emerged within communities, causing the fragmentation and marginalization of various groups.”

Sociologists define this type of collective trauma as the “corrosive community,” which contrasts with “therapeutic communities” that typically emerge in the wake of natural disasters. Corrosive communities are typified by loss of trust, uncertainty regarding the future and anger that results from technological disasters.

Dr. Picou is currently involved in studies involving Gulf Coast communities that have been directly impacted by BP’s oil.

“Picou is already talking about the parallels he’s seeing,” Dr. Ladd said. “Community, family and individual impacts. So in addition to psychological stress, you’ve got a spike in domestic violence, suicides. There were over 13 suicides attributed to the spill in Cordova and a spike in divorce rates. These are some of the very common impacts that we know that tend to be associated with technological disasters.”

The National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University conducted a study from July 19 to July 25, including surveying of 1,200 coastal residents in Louisiana and Mississippi.

“There’s been a very overt effort by BP and the Coast Guard to project a sense that the crisis is over, but this is far from the case,” Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the center and president of the Children’s Health Fund, a sponsor of the survey, reported. “Our survey shows a persistent and overwhelming level of anxiety among families living near the coast, driven by both medical symptoms in their children as well as a substantial level of psychological stress.”

“I’ve seen a lot of people teetering on the edge of wellness since Katrina who now have increased fears and are decompensating into severe depression and resurgence of PTSD from Katrina,” Dr. Podesta said. “I work in addiction and I’ve seen a lot of increase in alcohol and other drugs, domestic violence and making severe threats about suicide, or threats towards their spouse and children. I’m seeing that more often now, directly related to the fear of what may happen to the livelihoods, lifestyles and economics of folks being directly affected.”

The loss of livelihood is one of the key causes of stress from the BP oil disaster. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld © 2010)

Dr. Johnson is seeing the same thing: “Something like this stresses families, kids, relationships. After Katrina we saw a spike in domestic violence and divorces or break ups. Traumatized kids saw their parents fighting. Substance abuse increases, which leads to fueling domestic violence and crime. It’s a ripple effect and the longer it goes on, with unemployment or inability to return to their way of life, the worse things will get. We already have a high stress level and now this on top if it. We saw a rise in suicides after Katrina, so people see their families fall apart and unemployment continues, these are real concerns, along with the psychosocial effects.”

Dr. Podesta’s work as a psychiatrist is uncovering countless examples of what the sociologists have predicted would happen with this disaster and how the current situation is compounded because of the lingering psychological affects from Katrina. “The time frame makes this worse. In Katrina we had a succinct number affected in their homes and a reasonable time frame we could project, three to five years, for recovery. The unknowns with our current situation, for the long-term projected problems, are so severe, like a fishermen’s financial livelihood. Yet, for this BP disaster, the groundwork was Katrina. That was the base this was laid upon, so every insult with this crisis restimulates all the PTSD and problems from Katrina. PTSD is usually one incident that results in hopelessness, helplessness and fear of death. It usually peaks then comes back down. But with the continued insults to hope and welfare, instead of dropping back down, it kind of step ladders up with each insult. So Louisiana’s parishes with people more directly affected now, they’re suffering the most.”

Dr. Irene McIntosh, an associate professor at the University of South Alabama, works as a counselor educator. “The most immediate response I’m seeing that began with the explosion on April 20 is a sense of disbelief. Like, we can’t be going through something else again,” she told Truthout.

What she is seeing in Alabama is parallel to that in Louisiana, with regard to the current disaster being augmented by past trauma from Hurricane Katrina. “We’re coming up on the fifth anniversary of Katrina and most of our citizens had the sense we were recovering and seeing the light at the end of a very long tunnel,” Dr. McIntosh explained, adding, “and then this is like a huge setback psychologically. Now we’re back in it again and there’s a sense of impotence, that there’s nothing we can do.”

“People need to realize that even though it’s five years after Katrina, this is like pouring salt in a wound, it’s an added psychological insult, people are more vulnerable and many are being re-traumatized,” Dr. Johnson explained. “It’s a different catastrophe, but things were never back to normal and I think a lot of the country doesn’t realize that. This on top of it, makes it that much harder and brings back Katrina very vividly and we’re in the middle of hurricane season. You see increased anxiety in August and September anyway because of Katrina, but with the oil out there, it makes it tenfold worse, because you have these nightmares of an oil-covered city. You have to look at all of this in the context of Katrina.”

“After a storm you can do something,” Dr. McIntosh added. “But with this, you really are at the mercy of BP and the folks in charge, as to how much you can do. So it’s a very disempowering sense that is prevalent.”

While Dr. McIntosh does not currently see people professionally, in the context of her being a community leader who did immense work toward helping people in the wake of Katrina, she continues to talk to people daily about their trauma from the BP oil disaster.

“From the beginning everybody recognized how big this is and that it had major potential impacts because the shrimping season was just about to begin,” she said. “Then, as it went on, we started seeing businesses fail and tourism take a hit because people weren’t coming because of their perceptions of what it would be like here. Then when the tourists didn’t come, restaurants and other businesses began to suffer. Listening to them agonize about if they’ll be able to stay in business is a very painful process. I know fishermen in Louisiana who are in fear that their entire way of life is ending. How to you respond to that? How do you give them hope or something to hold onto? So basically what I do is listen. A lot.”

Dr. Ladd cites current examples of what Dr. Podesta refers to as “re-stimulating” stressors in people affected by this disaster. “The exact same phrases that BP are using come right out of the playbook of what Exxon used 21 years ago. Right now, looking at the parallels between the spill in Cordova and what we see now in the Gulf, a lot of similar patterns are starting to emerge. You’ve got levels of psychological stress and anxiety affecting a significant minority of the population. As the litigation of the impacts grow, that’s going to increase. For example, Picou found this last year when he was back in Cordova, that so many had to leave because they were economically displaced – the fishing industry was destroyed, the herring industry was destroyed, the pink salmon runs have never come back of course. All the other marine impacts that you’re seeing here – sea birds, turtles, sharks, every day this stuff is in the paper. Not withstanding all those wildlife impacts and ecological effects, the stress impacts, still, they found in Cordova are at a sub-clinical level. PTSD, which is the equivalent in stress to rape and murder experiences, they are still finding that level of anxiety affecting somewhere between 30 to 35 percent of the Cordova population.”

Dr. McIntosh told Truthout she is concerned about the long-term psychological impacts of this disaster. “That is what I’m concerned most about because anytime you’re under long term stress, whether it’s economic, you’re losing your home or boat and your business, then those translate into experiences of depression, increased family chaos, increased difficulty with interpersonal relationships and a decrease in self-efficacy that I can take care of myself and my family. There is anger that exists throughout our region and it’s an anger of feeling betrayed by those who were in charge, that they didn’t make sure there were legitimate steps taken to respond to this.”

Dr. McIntosh explained the complexity Gulf Coast residents face with the BP disaster and how the complexity of their proximity to the Gulf of Mexico causes them stress yet also provides strength. “This spill has affected everyone along the Gulf Coast. We all value the natural beauty of our coast and the connection with nature. We’re moved by the site of brown pelicans. We laugh with joy when we see the dolphins playing off the boat in the Mississippi Sound. There is something so special about our connection to our Gulf that links everything – our livelihoods, our sense of connectedness, our spiritual awareness and this disaster has just taken away the sureness that everyone would wake up and it would be there. And that uncertainty and experience has been across the board. That will go with us whatever the trajectory is for the rest of our lives.”

She feels people’s resilience will play a key role in the future. “Gulf Coast residents are very resilient people, but this is one more big test of that resilience and you get weary of sucking it up one more time. Having to summon from within yourself the will to persevere through yet another catastrophe and this one, there’s been levels of disconnect from communication, trying to figure out who was in charge, how to connect to a way to get reimbursed for your losses, it’s again been that same difficulty with communication that increases frustration and decreases the sense of self-efficacy. I can’t move beyond the fact that this is also my experience. The sadness, the connection I have to the Gulf. Yet, also the sheer awe I have at the strength of our people to keep on adapting and coping and dealing with one thing after another. It leaves me amazed. While I know we’re going to have psychological decay, I see the strength and ability to persevere that is often easy to overlook.”

Dr. Ladd believes recovery from the BP oil disaster will take decades. “We need to stop thinking of this as a sprint and think of it as a marathon. This disaster and its impacts are going to go on for at least a decade and it could be more. It’s hard to put into words the astronomical ways in which this disaster is likely to affect the Gulf Coast.”

He underscores how the court battles that are sure to span years, if not decades, will negatively affect people. “The litigation process is a key source of stress, anxiety and one of the key economic expenditures of the people affected, who already are short on money. Exxon had very deep pockets and said from the very beginning they would not pay a penny of that judgment unless they had to. Despite all the PR about “making you whole,” they said very clearly and publicly and not just in court to the lawyers, that we will not pay a penny of this judgment if we can prevent it. BP hasn’t started saying that yet because it’s far too early.”

Dr. Riki Ott is a marine biologist, toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor from Cordova, Alaska. She told Truthout that when companies like Exxon/Mobile or BP tell people, “we will make you whole” it really means, “We’ll see you in court.”

Dr. Ott provided figures about how severely people in her community were initially affected from the 1989 disaster. “In our communities in Alaska that were affected by the Exxon Valdez disaster, we had 99 percent increase in PTSD, 99 percent increase in anxiety disorder, 99 percent increase in depression,” she explained.

Dr. Ladd is deeply concerned about the negative, long lasting affects of this disaster on coastal communities. “We all have a point where it’s very tough to swallow and comprehend the enormity of the risks that we’ve created for ourselves. This is a very real problem and even happens with educators, scientists and certainly with Gulf Coast residents. It’s like watching the death of a loved one for a lot of people. I have the deepest sympathy for the fishermen here. Can you imagine New Orleans without oysters? It’s as central to our way of life as salmon is to the Northwest. But here we are. A lot of people are at their wits end.”

He feels a key problem is that this disaster creates a series of tipping points where the impacts in the marine ecology bleed into the economic, social and psychological realms. This creates, according to Dr. Ladd, “A trickle up and trickle down set of impacts that chronically keep multiplying into themselves. Look at Alaska, people are still reeling with anxiety, grief and denial from what happened in 1989. We need to know what happened in Alaska to prepare ourselves for and anticipate even greater impacts here in the Gulf.”

Dr. Ladd is not hopeful about what he sees. “Are we going to wake up in time to grasp the enormity of this disaster so that we can grapple with it accordingly and what we’ve got to do to prevent it in the future? I’m not feeling real sanguine at the moment about the possibilities of that happening anytime soon.”

Dr. McIntosh, on the other hand, believes people’s resiliency coupled with community strength will play a key role in the recovery effort. “Along the coast some of our networks are training peer listeners so people have someone to talk to in order to make meaning of what they are experiencing and to decrease the stress,” she said.

Dr. Podesta feels that more political attention and funding needs to be aimed at mental health for those affected by the BP oil disaster, in addition to bringing justice to those responsible for creating the crisis. “Mental health needs to be part of the human rights we’re seeking assistance for,” she said. “We need to talk about mental health as what we’re advocating for along with the other things that whoever is responsible for all of this needs to be held accountable.”

Dr. Johnson, after explaining that claims made to BP will not include mental health claims, said that she is advocating a more community based mental health support system, but that this will require funding that Louisiana’s Governor Jindal, President Obama or BP appear, thus far, unwilling to provide. “There’s going to be a need for more money for more mental health services, but where will that come from?” she asked. “We all know it’s a problem, but we’re usually the first ones to get cut when it comes to funding. Over the past five years it’s become more prevalent here, more publicized, Katrina de-stigmatized mental health treatment because everybody was stressed out, but at the same time they keep cutting services. The awareness is not accompanied by real action or dollars. People talk about the mental health effects, but they don’t want to put their money where their mouth is.”

Dr. Ladd speaks to this as well. “Note the stories in the news about trying to get mental health funding for this expected jump in PTSD among coastal residents. The experience we know from studying other technological disasters, that’s probably going to not only be well needed, but probably inadequate.”

He concluded that the key, long-term solution is for the US to wean itself from the oil-based economy. “I want to be an optimist and think that people will be able to get through this, but at another level, I can’t feel very confident because the way all these cultural and economic forces tend to dull our ability to react and speak truth to power and express our outrage politically, as well as being able to look down the road and start to transition to a clean, renewable alternative energy economy, that we should have started 20 years ago,” he explained. “If we don’t do that, I don’t know how we can hope to handle any other serious problem down the road. This really is a test of that. Lack of knowledge is not the problem, it’s lack of political will.”

** Dahr Jamail’s MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit Dahr Jamail’s website **

Dahr Jamail’s new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available.

Order the book here

As one of the first and few unembedded Western journalists to report the truth about how the United States has destroyed, not liberated, Iraqi society in his book Beyond the Green Zone, Jamail now investigates the under-reported but growing antiwar resistance of American GIs. Gathering the stories of these courageous men and women, Jamail shows us that far from “supporting our troops,” politicians have betrayed them at every turn. Finally, Jamail shows us that the true heroes of the criminal tragedy of the Iraq War are those brave enough to say no.

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“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

Winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism


Censored Gulf eyewitness testimonies of coughing up blood and other horror stories

August 2, 2010 1 comment

Coughing up blood is among horrors that eyewitnesses are reporting in south Louisiana where BP medics diagnose the sudden widespread, burning, itching skin,  lesions and marks as “scabies” or staph and government health focus on “stress” and mental condition of millions of people poisoned with what scientists report is 11 times more lethal than crude oil toxins now in Gulf and coastal water and air. Americans are still encouraged to eat Gulf seafood.

On July 29 Global Justice Radio Blog Talk Radio program hosted by Rev. T.K. (Kathryn) O’Shannahan-Hyland and Vin Beazel called “Agent Orange Alert,” listeners heard eyewitness and personal accounts of internal bleeding from orifices including coughing up blood and nose bleeds.

There was a call-in from a woman stranded and ill with rashes on her body. She was calling for help.

Callers described leg-swelling among other effects since the oil explosion and lethal dispersant spraying operation.

By Deborah Dupre’

Full Article


Corexit Tied To ‘Dengue Fever’ In Florida?

July 30, 2010 1 comment

Outbreak Leads Back To CIA And Army Experiments
With little fanfare on July 13, Florida officials released the findings of a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study conducted recently in the Key West area revealing that about 10 percent, or 1,000 people, of the coastal town’s population are infected with the dengue fever virus.
While the July 13 release made little mention of it, the CDC study was provoked by an earlier 2009 report that a woman in New York State, who had returned from a Florida Keys’ visit, had contracted dengue fever. Within a few weeks of this initial report, two additional cases were discovered in people who had returned from Key West. Over the next three months of 2009, an additional 26 cases were identified, all tied to visits to the town.
Because of these reported cases, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District conducted greatly increased aerial spraying to control mosquitoes. Following the spraying, a small amount of other cases were reported, including that of a 41-year-old Key West man who found blood in his urine and had severely aching joints. Following these additional reports, the CDC launched its study of antibodies in Key West residents and found that 5 percent of the town’s residents have been exposed to the dengue virus. Said CDC dengue expert, Dr. Christopher J. Gregory, “The best estimate from the survey is that about 5 percent of [residents] was infected in 2009 with dengue.” Gregory also stated, “We have known for a while it is a possible risk, but this outbreak shows it is more than possible: It is something that did happen and could happen again.”
Despite the low-key nature of the Florida release, the Homeland Security Administration immediately issued a “terror alert” concerning the findings and Monroe County, within which Key West is located, also issued its own health advisory warning “effective immediately.”
Said Bob Eadie of the Monroe County Health Department, “Dengue is rare in Florida, but not unknown. It’s just one of several mosquito-borne illnesses monitored by the department and why we continually remind the public to take precautions against bites.” Eadie added, “Many people may be infected and not develop any symptoms. Our department and the CDC will have to do some detective work after interviewing and drawing blood from residents who appear to be perfectly fine but may have the virus.”
Dengue fever is a virus-based disease spread by the bites of mosquitoes. It can be caused by any one of four separate but related viruses carried by infected mosquitoes, most commonly the mosquito Aedes aegypti, found in tropic and subtropic areas. It is commonly found in Southeast Asia, South and Central America, Indonesia and sub-Saharan Africa. Over the past several decades it has been consistently reported that dengue fever has been eradicated in North America. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a far more severe form of the dengue virus. If untreated, it can be fatal. The chief symptoms of dengue fever are a high fever, severe headache, strong pain behind the eyes, joint, muscle and bone pain, easy bruising, rash and mild bleeding from the nose and gums. There is no cure or vaccine for dengue fever. One can only treat the symptoms in such ways as getting plenty of rest, drink plenty of water, take pain relievers with acetaminophen and promptly consult a skilled physician.
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Hidden History of Dengue:
It appears highly unlikely that any “detective work” performed by the CDC and Florida health officials will unearth evidence of dengue fever being imported into Florida, but that evidence certainly exists. Prior to the recent Key West findings and still today, the CDC has consistently reported that there have been no outbreaks of dengue fever in Florida since 1934 and none in the continental US since 1946. This report is incorrect.
Unknown to most Americans is that dengue fever has been the intense focus of US Army and CIA biological warfare researchers for over 50 years. Ed Regis notes in his excellent history of Fort Detrick, “The Biology of Doom,” that as early as 1942 leading biochemists at the installation placed dengue fever on a long list for serious consideration as a possible weapon. In the early 1950s, Fort Detrick, in partnership with the CIA, launched a multi-million dollar research program under which dengue fever and several addition exotic diseases were studied for use in offensive biological warfare attacks. Assumably, because the virus is generally not lethal, program planners viewed it primarily as an incapacitant. Reads one CIA Project Artichoke document: “Not all viruses have to be lethal … the objective includes those that act as short-term and long-term incapacitants.” Several CIA documents, as well as the findings of a 1975 Congressional committee, reveal that three sites in Florida, Key West, Panama City and Avon Park, as well as two other locations in central Florida, were used for experiments with mosquito-borne dengue fever and other biological substances.
The experiments in Avon Park, about 170 miles from Miami, were covertly conducted in a low-income African-American neighborhood that contained several newly constructed public housing projects. CIA documents related to its top-secret Project MK/NAOMI clearly indicate that the mosquitoes used in Avon Park were the Aedes aegypti type. Specially equipped aircraft, in one of the larger experiments, released 600,000 mosquitoes over the area. In one of the Avon Park experiments, about 150,000 mosquitoes were dropped in paper bags designed to open upon impact with the ground. Each bag held about 1,000 insects. Besides dengue, some of the mosquitoes were also carrying yellow fever.
Avon Park residents, still living in the area, say the experiments resulted in “at least 6 or 7 deaths.” One elderly resident told Truthout, “Nobody knew about what had gone on here for years, maybe over 20 years, but in looking back it explained why a bunch of healthy people got sick quick and died at the time of those experiments.” Interestingly, at the same time experiments were conducted in Florida, there were at least two cases of dengue fever reported among civilian researchers at Fort Detrick in Maryland.
A 1978 Pentagon publication, entitled “Biological Warfare: Secret Testing & Volunteers,” reveals that the Army’s Chemical Corps and Special Operations and Projects Divisions at Fort Detrick conducted “tests” similar to the Avon Park experiments in Key West, but the bulk of the documentation concerning this highly classified and covert work is still held by the Pentagon as “secret.” One former Fort Detrick researcher says the Army “performed a number of experiments in the area of the Keys,” but that “not all concerned dengue virus.”
In 1959, Fort Detrick launched its largest mosquito experiment called Operation Bellwether, consisting of over 50 field experiments. Some of these experiments, designed to ascertain the “rate of biting” and “mosquito aggressiveness,” were conducted in partnership with scientists with the Rockefeller Institute in New York, where scientists bred their own strain of mosquitoes. Some of the Bellwether experiments were conducted in Florida, as well as in other states, including Georgia, Maryland, Utah and Arizona.
The 1978 Pentagon publication, along with two other Chemical Corps reports, reveal the identities of a number of the companies and institutions that assisted the Army in its offensive biological warfare experiments: Armour Research Foundation (1951-1954); the Battelle Memorial Institute (1952-1965); Ben Venue Labs, Inc. (1953-1954); University of Florida (1953-1956); Florida State University (1951-1953); and the Lovell Chemical Company (1951-1955).
In the spring and summer of 1981, Cuba experienced a severe hemorrhagic dengue fever epidemic. Between May and October 1981, the island nation had 158 dengue-related deaths with about 75,000 reported infection cases. Prior to this outbreak, Cuba had reported only a very small number of cases in 1944 and 1977. At the height of the epidemic, over 10,000 people per day were found infected and 116,150 were hospitalized. At the same time as the 1981 outbreak, covert biological warfare attacks on Cuba’s residents and crops were believed to have been conducted against the island by CIA contractors and military airplane flyovers. Particularly harmful to the nation was a severe outbreak of swine flu that Fidel Castro attributed to the CIA. American researcher William H. Schaap, an editor of Covert Action magazine, claims the Cuba dengue outbreak was the result of CIA activities. Former Fort Detrick researchers, all of whom refused to have their names used for this article, say they performed “advance work” on the Cuba outbreak and that it was “man made.”
In 1982, the Soviet media reported that the CIA sent operatives into Afghanistan from Pakistan to launch a dengue epidemic. The Soviets claimed the operatives were posing as malaria workers, but, instead, were releasing dengue-infected mosquitoes. The CIA denied the charges. In 1985 and 1986, authorities in Nicaragua accused the CIA of creating a massive outbreak of dengue fever that infected thousands in that country. CIA officials denied any involvement, but Army researchers admitted that intensive work with arthropod vectors for offensive biological warfare objectives had been conducted at Fort Detrick in the early 1980s, having first started in the early 1950s. Fort Detrick researchers reported that huge colonies of mosquitoes infected with not only dengue virus, but also yellow fever, were maintained at the Frederick, Maryland, installation, as well as hordes of flies carrying cholera and anthrax and thousands of ticks filled with Colorado fever and relapsing fever.
A review of declassified Army Chemical Corps documents reveal that the Army may have also been engaged in dengue fever research as early as the late 1940s. Several redacted Camp Detrick and Edgewood Arsenal reports indicate that experiments were conducted on state and federal prisoners who were unwitting exposed to dengue fever, as well as other viruses, some possibly lethal. Freedom of Information requests filed months ago for details on these early experiments remain unanswered.
*****Dengue Fever and BP Spill Complications*****
The timing of this outbreak of dengue fever presents two additional problems; the symptoms of dengue fever are very similar to that of exposures to chemicals such as those contained in crude oil and the dispersants currently being used in the contaminated areas of the Gulf of Mexico, potentially making it difficult to diagnose the source of a sufferer’s symptoms. Worse yet, there looms the possibility that Corexit and other toxins present in the Gulf area may weaken the immune system, thus, setting the stage for more severe forms of the disease in people who are, or have previously been, exposed to the virus.
It is still unclear to what degree residents of the Gulf area, at large, have been or will be exposed to such chemicals in the long term, but there is mounting evidence that fishermen, cleanup workers, and others who spend significant time in contact with the Gulf waters are beginning to display symptoms consistent with chemically induced neurotoxicity. If dengue fever also spreads within the Gulf community, affecting a significant number of people, it will be increasingly difficult to differentiate the cause of symptoms in those who develop them; even in persons who test positive for dengue exposure, the additional possibility remains that chemical toxicity is present as well.
The presentation of dengue fever varies considerably from case to case. Numerous medical studies have identified asymptomatic infections, or infections that consist of only mild, flu-like symptoms that would likely not result in the sufferer seeking medical attention.
When more troubling symptoms are present, they vary considerably in severity. According to the CDC, milder cases of dengue fever are identified by a high fever accompanied by at least two of the following symptoms: severe headache; severe eye pain (behind eyes); joint pain; muscle and/or bone pain; rash; a mild bleeding manifestation such as bleeding gums, nose bleeds, or easy bruising; and low white cell count. In more severe cases, dengue can cause severe abdominal pain or persistent vomiting; red blotches or patches on the skin; more severe bleeding of nose or gums; vomiting of blood; black, tarry excrement (indicative of the presence of blood in the stool); drowsiness; irritability; cold or clammy skin; pallor; and difficulty breathing. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene has reported cases of dengue fever that resulted in neurological manifestations, as well.
Dengue fever can also cause a much more serious, hemorrhagic form of the disease, the presentation of which the CDC describes as follows:
“[A] fever that lasts from 2 to 7 days, with general signs and symptoms consistent with dengue fever. When the fever declines, warning signs may develop. This marks the beginning of a 24 to 48 hour period when the smallest blood vessels (capillaries) become excessively permeable (“leaky”), allowing the fluid component to escape from the blood vessels into the peritoneum (causing ascites) and pleural cavity (leading to pleural effusions). This may lead to failure of the circulatory system and shock and possibly death without prompt, appropriate treatment. In addition, the patient with DHF has a low platelet count and hemorrhagic manifestations, tendency to bruise easily or have other types of skin hemorrhages, bleeding nose or gums and possibly internal bleeding.”
As if this were not troubling enough, let us compare the above symptom picture to the symptoms associated with exposure to the dispersants Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527. The exact risks of exposure to these chemicals have yet to be determined; in fact, the manufacturers’ material safety data sheet (MSDS) for Corexit 9500 states: “No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product.” The MSDS further states that one should not come in contact with the product or breathe its vapors and that adequate protective skin protection and breathing apparatuses should be worn when handling or working with the compound. Any hints of safe usage within the MSDS on these chemicals should be viewed from the following perspective: the MSDS data assumes limited exposure (for example, while applying the chemical) and the use of adequate protective gear. These statistics do not apply, therefore, to unprotected people who may be subject to long-term, consistent exposure.
Many toxicologists have raised grave concerns, however, about the risks that these dispersants may pose to residents of the Gulf of Mexico area. Dr. Susan Shaw, a marine toxicologist, talked about her recent experience with shrimpers who had been working in the Gulf waters. In an interview on CNN, she addressed the situation of a shrimper who had thrown his net into water, causing the water to splash onto his unprotected skin. She reported that he developed a “headache that lasted 3 weeks, heart palpitations, muscle spasms, bleeding from the rectum …” and continued, “and that’s what this Corexit does, it ruptures red blood cells, causes internal bleeding and liver and kidney damage. …” She asserts that the combination of oil from the well, combined with Corexit dispersant, increases the toxicity of both substances. In combination, she believes that they are skin permeable and that they aerosolize to produce a breathing hazard as well. The toxins can enter the body through the respiratory tract, but are unlikely to remain localized in the lungs, instead spreading throughout one’s entire body system.
Numerous reports have come in from both residents of the Gulf area and journalists visiting the area that many people who are exposed to the water are beginning to experience health problems. Among the most commonly reported symptoms are burning eyes, skin rashes, lightheadedness, dizziness, difficulty breathing, transient numbness and shooting pains, persistent coughing, sore throats, muscle and bone aches, weakness and severe fatigue. More troubling reports, such as those of the shrimpers mentioned above, have included bleeding from the nose and from the rectum, as well as permanent numbness in extremities and complete loss of the sense of smell. It is generally accepted in the medical literature that, although the initial, acute presentation of toxic exposure is generally the most severe, symptoms may linger indefinitely or even result in permanent damage to the body.
Herein lies the dilemma: If a Gulf resident becomes ill, to what do we attribute his or her symptoms? In addition to the dispersants themselves, Gulf residents are potentially suffering from exposure to benzene and other toxic chemicals that are naturally present in crude oil, as well as several potentially toxic gases being released from the well. In combination with the dispersant, the exact toxicity risk of these chemicals remains unknown.
Add now, to the picture, the risk of having contracted dengue fever and the puzzle becomes more difficult to piece together. The CDC’s 2009 survey contained samples from only 240 households and determined that about 5 percent of the residents had antibodies to the dengue virus, indicating either current infection or a prior exposure. This relatively small sample may not be indicative of the Florida population as a whole and may not be a valid indicator of the overall number of exposed people in the surrounding areas.
The medical literature indicates that dengue virus, like many other viruses, may remain in the body in a latent form; during latency, the virus is unlikely to cause symptoms. A second infection with dengue, however, can lead to a much more severe presentation of the disease and a greater likelihood of it progressing to its hemorrhagic (and potentially fatal) form. Likewise, the literature indicates that a severe assault to the immune system presents a risk of virus reactivation and resultant disease.
Dr. Shaw’s assessment of the dangers of Corexit dispersant, particularly in combination with the other contaminants resulting from the damaged BP oil well, includes the potential for severe damage to the immune system. Such immune system suppression or damage, it seems, could then reactivate dengue fever in residents who carry the latent virus, perhaps even resulting in a more severe form of the disease’s presentation.
Assuming the above quoted assessments of the current situation in Florida are accurate, the presence of the dengue virus in Florida at this time makes for a nightmarish picture. Not only is there a tremendous symptom overlap between dengue virus and toxin exposure, up to and including the potential for a hemorrhagic presentation of both, but there looms on the horizon a new and frightening possibility: The combined presence of this disease and a toxic environment might have the potential to combine, making an already tragic situation incrementally worse.
By H.P. Albarelli Jr. and Zoe Martell